WWE WrestleMania 36 results: Firefly FunHouse, Boneyard matches lead best moments from surreal 2020 show
After two action-packed nights of WrestleMania, we pick the six defining moments from the unique event
WrestleMania 36 was always destined to be memorable, for better or worse. For the first time in history, WWE's signature yearly event was set to take place over two nights, pre-taped in an empty WWE Performance Center during the global coronavirus pandemic. Many fans were understandably hesitant to believe WWE could deliver a spectacle deserving of the WrestleMania title, but somehow the company pulled off the seemingly impossible by delivering two nights of compelling wrestling without tens of thousands of fans in attendance.
While there are plenty of moments that will stick in the minds of wrestling fans forever, we have narrowed our list to the three best from each night. Let's take a look at the six most memorable moments from the first two-night WrestleMania in history.
1. The Undertaker kicks AJ Styles into an open grave: Conceptually, the Boneyard Match between AJ Styles and The Undertaker was a big risk. WWE was taking a another chance on presenting a cinematic experience it's misfired on in the past, most notably with trying to recreate Matt Hardy's "Broken Universe" magic as well as a disastrous House of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt in 2017. With Undertaker and Styles, however, WWE nailed the execution by striking the right balance between tense action and over-the-top presentation.
After battling through a graveyard, next to a barn filled with druids and on a rooftop, the defining moment of the match came as Styles begged Undertaker not to bury him. Undertaker laughed, saying he wouldn't bury Styles after putting up such a good fight, only to then turn and kick Styles into the grave before using a tractor to pour dirt on his body. The memorable encounter concluded with Styles' hand sticking out from the dirt and Undertaker exiting the scene on his motorcycle to bring the first night of WrestleMania 36 to a close.
2. Kevin Owens gets his "WrestleMania Moment": The idea of the "WrestleMania Moment" as a defining point in a wrestler's career has taken hold over the last decade to where the concept has been woven into storylines. That was the case with the build to the grudge match between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins. Rollins touted his own record of success at past WrestleManias while taking verbal shots at Owens' history of failure. So, when Rollins chose to get himself disqualified by striking Owens with a ring bell, it felt as though Rollins had taken the path of least resistance to rob Owens of achieving that moment for at least another year.
Owens would demand the match restart, however, and that led to his now-iconic moment. With Rollins down and out on top of the announce table -- a result of Owens using the same ring bell as a weapon -- Owens climbed to the top of the WrestleMania sign placed at ringside before leaping off and driving Rollins through the table with a senton. The pinfall that came moments later was an afterthought to Owens writing his own story with the leap.
3. Braun Strowman captures first world title: Braun Strowman stepping in for Roman Reigns against Goldberg at the last moment was not an ideal circumstance by any stretch. Strowman's journey in WWE has been complicated by questionable writing decisions, with WWE never striking while the iron was at its hottest.
Strowman entered the ring against Goldberg still somewhat fresh off his first singles championship, a brief run as a transitional champion to move the intercontinental title to Sami Zayn. But in running through Goldberg in short order to win the universal title, he has been put in position to take the ball and run with it as one of the promotion's top champions. Fans will have to wait and see how well things go for him this time around.
1. John Cena enters the Firefly Fun House: Trying to pick a single moment from John Cena's Firefly Fun House Match with Bray Wyatt would be nearly impossible. Where the Boneyard Match was WWE's recreation of an action movie climax, the Fun House was indie psychological horror movies brought to professional wrestling. Wyatt promised to make Cena face himself in the match, and that's effectively what happened as Cena stepped into the Fun House before walking through a door where he relived the various personas from his time in WWE. With each step through the process, Wyatt addressed Cena's weaknesses and flaws before finally breaking him down to a point of vulnerability where "The Fiend" could appear and pin Cena using the Mandible Claw.
Moments after Cena walked through the door, he was met by a horned puppet of Vince McMahon, with the puppet demanding Cena once again show "ruthless aggression." This set an immediate tone for the surreal match we were about to witness. But the best moment of all may have been an unhinged interview segment mid-match from a Saturday Night's Main Event set with Cena playing the role of Johnny Largemeat.
2. Drew McIntyre finally cashes in on his potential: One of the running themes in the build to WrestleMania was competitors looking to cash in on their potential against others who had already achieved elite levels of success. This was true with Owens' battle with Rollins and Strowman vs. Goldberg, but equally with Drew McIntyre looking to complete his 19-year journey to the top of the wrestling world when he met Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship. McIntyre had failed to live up to his potential during his first run in WWE, eventually being released from his contract before evolving as a performer on the independent scene. Lesnar represents the opposite road through the sport, finding success from the jump before becoming a performer who is able to operate on his own terms as a near-invincible force.
McIntyre had to survive a series of F-5s from Lesnar in their short match to close the event -- each kickout a sign of the strength and confidence he'd gained from past failures. When the momentum swung his way, McIntyre took full advantage, landing Claymore Kick after Claymore Kick until The Beast had been put down, leaving the Scot to celebrate his status as WWE champion as the show went off the air.
3. Charlotte Flair's career comes full circle: While it's hard to leave Edge's return to singles action against Randy Orton off this list, the best in-ring match of the weekend needs to be noted. Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley opened the second night of WrestleMania with an unbelievable effort. Flair is an expert at delivering jaw-dropping matches on the biggest stages, but operating in an empty building places extra focus on the wrestlers and their ability to control a match without crowd interaction. Flair and Ripley did exactly that by going hold for hold in a dramatic clash for Ripley's NXT championship.
After focusing her attack on Ripley's knee throughout the match, Flair was finally able to lock in the Figure-Eight to force the champ to submit, winning the NXT title in the process. In that moment, Flair's career came full circle, winning the championship that put her on the map when she was moving through NXT at a time the brand was focused on being a developmental property. Now, with NXT on cable television every week, Flair is on top once again.
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